Bali’s new international terminal is opening for service by shutting down for visiting world leaders.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are among the heads of state due to land in the Indonesian beach resort island this weekend for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. That’s prompted a day-time closure of the airport for four days and some 300 flight cancellations, two weeks after trials started on the $245 million facility.
The shutdown affects 17,000 travelers a day, who generate more than $5 million in daily tourism business for one of Asia’s most popular destinations. Ngurah Rai airport’s new wave-shaped terminal symbolizes Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s drive to showcase modern facilities for the summit, even as his government struggles to build infrastructure in other parts of the world’s biggest archipelago.
“It’s not surprising that he’s leaving nothing to chance with the APEC summit,” said Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Yudhoyono inspected the new terminal on Sept. 24, after it opened for trial runs in time for the Miss World beauty pageant contest in Bali last month. It will boost capacity to 16 million international travelers a year from 7.7 million, and 9.4 million domestic travelers from 1.5 million, according to airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I.
The APEC summit runs Oct. 5 through Oct. 8. President Barack Obama canceled plans to attend the summit as the fiscal standoff with congressional Republicans keeps the U.S. government partially shuttered. Ngurah Rai airport will be closed during day time for four days, according to its website.
The shiny new terminal has a wave-shaped roof designed to recycle storm water. Inside, travelers described a chaotic immigration and baggage collection process while gardens outside remained unfinished.
Yudhoyono also opened a toll road that cuts the time it takes to get from the airport to Nusa Dua where the summit will be held. Nusa Dua is already home to luxury hotels such as Hyatt Hotels Corp. (H:US) and Westin Hotels & Resorts.
“We are grateful for APEC, it’s a gift from the sky,” Ngurah Wijaya, Chairman of Bali Tourism Board, said by phone. “Of course there will be some impact from the closure.”
Bali attracted about 6.2 million foreign and domestic visitors last year, generating an annual tourism revenue of $1.87 billion, according to data from the Bali Tourism Board. In comparison, Phuket received 4 million tourists in 2012, the Phuket News said on its website on Sept. 4, citing Tourism Authority of Thailand data.
PT Garuda (GIAA) Indonesia, the nation’s state airline, canceled 139 domestic and international flights for next week linking Bali, spokesman Pujobroto said Oct. 1. AirAsia Bhd. (AIRA) scrapped 81, Kompas reported on its website Oct. 1.
PT Lion Mentari Airlines scrubbed 65 percent of its flights to Bali, the carrier said in an e-mail. Singapore-based Tiger Airways Holdings Ltd. (TGR) lost about eight flights due to the closure.
“It will be a loss to the local community because they are very dependent on tourism, and there’s going to be very tight security,” said Shukor Yusof, a Singapore-based aviation analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “I don’t think anyone would want to be there during that time.”
Indonesia was concerned about the impact of the airport’s closure and therefore notified airlines in advance, Tourism Minister Mari Pangestu told Bloomberg TV Indonesia on Oct. 1.
The event will still bring in thousands of delegates and have a multiplier effect longer-term through the new infrastructure and image projected to APEC nations, which account for 54 percent of the world economy, Pangestu said.
“You’re telling the world Indonesia is a safe place, Indonesia is capable of organizing a very important international event,” Pangestu said. “It has a lot of very positive and intangible impact on the country branding of Indonesia, that you will see the benefit, not now, but in the years to come.”
That’s no solace for Lisa Coombes, a tourist from Derby, U.K. who arrived Sept. 20 with her 2-year-old son in Bali. Queues were long for immigration and bags were arriving late, so it took her more than an hour to get out of the airport.
“It was really chaotic and the last thing we needed when you have a very cranky child,” said Coombes, 32. “I’ve not heard of APEC, but I see the banners everywhere. It’s good that we won’t be here when it starts.”
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